As I embarked on my 10th Bix 7 and Maggie on her fifth, I sensed that this race was going to be one for the record books — and not just because we got our sweet commemorative pins. For the first time in, well, ever, I had actually prepared for the Bix, and since Maggie is in the throes of Boston-marathon-qualifying madness, I knew we were both poised to run our best races ever.
But I’ve been running the Bix for a decade now, and I KNOW that it is a tough beast to conquer. The weather, the hills and the evil mind games it plays can break down even the most prepared, seasoned runner.
Adrea says: For the first time ever, I found myself in the ORANGE start corral. By the numbers, I have absolutely no business being in the orange start corral. I think you’re supposed to be running 7-minute miles or something in this corral. (News flash: I cannot run a 7-minute mile. Not even remotely.) But I know the Bix, and I know how much it sucks to run that first mile at an 11-minute pace in the next corral back, so what the heck, I was up with the capitol R Runners. And you know what? It was pretty awesome. We weren’t too far up in the front, and everyone there looked like … me! Serious, but not so serious that I was going to get run over. Thank goodness. After a few patriotic songs and a sweet flyover from some WWII planes, we were on our way. And lo and behold, they had Jock Jams pumping from two different speakers on the start line. So far, the running gods were smiling on us. In order to PR this race, I just needed to run a little faster than a 10-minute mile. I had trained at race pace, put in the miles and now it was just between me and the hills. Game on.
Maggie says: Entering the race, I knew I could PR, but I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself. The closer we got to the gun going off, though, the more pumped up I became. I’m in the best running shape of my life, so of course I have to PR! Besides, I was finally in the orange corral! And the whole gang was there, so for the first time in a couple years, our whole Bix Crew got to start the race together. Also, it was only the second race this year that I started in a corral with friends. It sure makes the time tick by a lot faster.
Take THAT, Brady hill.
The Brady Hill
Adrea says: Just as we crossed the start line, the sun came out. Uh-oh. I was hoping that the forecasted 91 degrees would come with a side of cloud cover. I cursed the sun, and continued up the hill. I could worry about the stupid sun later. And you know what? The hellacious hill wasn’t as bad as I remembered. Maybe it’s because we were moving up it a bit faster than in years past, but dang, I felt like the Brady beast was over before I knew it. I even snagged a selfie with my buddy, Paul, on the way up. I crossed the first mile marker and my watch said we did it in a record-breaking 9:14. Thanks, orange start corral!
Maggie says: Just six days earlier, I had raced my tuchas off at the Rock n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon, but somehow, my legs still felt surprisingly great. I didn’t want to jinx it, but I found myself thinking this was the easiest the Brady Hill had ever felt. (TRAINING WORKS, YOU GUYS. Imagine that!) When my watch chimed with an 8:45 first mile, I did a double take. It was a full minute faster than last year’s first mile — so even if I ran the rest of the race at the exact same pace as last year, I’d easily PR. That took a little pressure off.
The Kirkwood Slide
Adrea says: Despite a raging case of cotton mouth, I was feeling great. Just as we started down the gentle decline, my husband, Keith, sped ahead of me, so I stuck with my college roomie, Katy. I had sensed that Keith would ditch me during this race since he wasn’t pushing a double stroller with two small-but-not-that-small humans in it like he does for all of our training runs. No less, I was sad to see him go because I knew that when I started to lose steam, Katy wouldn’t shame me into sucking it up the way Keith would. Oh well. The sun had tucked back behind a nice overcast sky, and hey! There was my friend, Joanna, and her cute kids cheering us on. Woohoo! Meb Keflezighi flew by us on the left side of the road, looking strong, and I felt inspired. A few minutes later, Joan Benoit cruised by us, and I felt honored to be following the footsteps of these legends. Miles two and three flew by and we passed the 5K mark in about 28 minutes, so I was actually ahead of schedule. But I knew that the hard part of the race was yet to come …
Maggie says: I settled into a comfortably hard pace and kept chugging along. For a split second, I even considered diving onto the slip-n-slide on the grassy median. Hang on a second. Was I having fun? Yes, yes I was.
Adrea says: Coming up this steep hill hurt. And it hurt bad. My legs burned, and my lungs were on fire. But as soon as it got to be too much to handle, it was over, and we were headed downhill again. Katy and I saw Maggie pass by us near the halfway mark as we grabbed some water and turned aroun to go back up that goshdang hill. Just as we were about to hit the summit, I whined and groaned, and a woman patted me on the shoulder and said, “Doing great!” as she came to the top with us. Katy cheerfully reminded me “we’ve only got 3 miles left!” but it wasn’t much of a boost because experience was working against me. I knew we were just about to start a slow 1.75-mile climb.
Maggie says: My strategy was to situate myself on the very inside and watch the fast folks speeding down the hill on the other side to take my mind off the giant hill ahead of me. It worked. I powered my way to the top with nary a complaint, easily navigated the turnaround and stayed to the inside to now keep my eyes peeled for Adrea, Keith and Katy. After waving to the gals (no Keith in sight), I hit the big ol’ downhill. I eased off the gas just a little so as not to completely shred my legs for the upcoming Slow March of Death. I know better than that now.
The Slow Climb
Adrea says: Ugh. I. Hate. This. Part. For a decade solid, I have questioned my enthusiasm for the Bix as I march up this section. It’s hot, I’ve just run a bunch of hills, and this part is generally the nail in my coffin. I slogged my two slowest miles of the race here, at about 10:30. — NOT on race pace. And I knew it. I didn’t even need my Garmin to tell me I was dragging ass. But it was really all I had, so there wasn’t much I could do to change it at this point. Just. Keep. Moving. It came as a small validation when I got home from the race and watched it on DVR, to see that when Meb hit this section of the race, he faltered, cramped up and barfed at mile six. Meb, I feel you, dude. I, too, have barfed at mile six.
Maggie says: This part of the course is a real bitch. You know what made it better, though? Jock Jams. Specifically, “Push It” by Salt-n-Pepa. Behold the power of music. I also snagged a bag of ice from an unofficial aid station and poured a couple cubes down the front and back of my sports bra. I put the remainder in my hat — all without missing a step. Damn, I’m good. I then fixed my gaze on the right side of the road to spot Adrea’s parents and two daughters. I saw the munchkins rocking the new shirts I bought them at the RnR Expo and stopped to give them both high-fives. Twenty seconds well spent.
Brady Street, Part Two
Adrea says: As Katy and I turned back onto Brady Street for the final mile, I knew if I wanted to PR, I was going to have to bust a move. Katy assured me we could do it. Sure, easy for her to say. She’s, like, fast and stuff. I thought back to my training, to those negative splits I ran on the trail, and assured myself that I could do it. All I had to do was hold it together for another mile. I kept checking my watch frantically, and every time I looked down, it told me I was going faster.
Maggie says: La la la la la, downhill, yay! I skipped the last water stop because I was feeling strong, and I settled into a familiar picking-people-off mode. I glanced at my watch, and I was easily on track for a PR and then some. Another unofficial aid station was passing out Fla-Vor-Ice (pro tip: next time, cut them in half!). A man in his 40s ahead of me looked like a kid who dropped his ice cream cone when he noticed he had missed the icy treats. I laughed out loud.
The Finishing Stretch
Adrea says: I felt like my legs were running by themselves, as though not attached my body. They were just going. Katy kept pointing out people we could beat, and we kept flying by them. That last stretch is a looong quarter-mile dash, and we plowed through it and barreled through the finish line. I punched my watched and looked down. 1:08:04. I had PRed by almost two minutes. And then I promptly doubled over and peed my pants. Getting old is hard.
Maggie says: OK, fine, the last quarter-mile hurt. After that long downhill, the straightaway to the finish is a real beast. I threw up some horns and a smile and pushed to the end. 56:02, a spot-on 8-minute pace. Oh, and if you’re keeping track at home, this makes it five PRs in five race distances (5K, 8K, 10K, 7-mile, half marathon) for me in 2014. Boom goes the dynamite.
Adrea says: What an awesome day at the races! I am so happy to say that for the first time in years, I was actually excited to check my official time in the newspaper Sunday morning. Shoot, I even beat some people this year. That’s a rarity for this ol’ gal. I’d also like to give huge props to my friend, Lindsay, who GAVE BIRTH a mere 8 weeks ago and finished the race in 50-something, placing in the top 100. This woman is still on maternity leave, people. Sheesh! It all goes to show that everything’s relative when it comes to the Bix. And everyone who conquers that beast has something to boast about. Let’s do it again next year. I can’t wait!
Maggie says: I definitely didn’t push as hard as I could’ve because getting hurt isn’t one of my lofty 2014 goals. That said, there’s a part of me that wonders just how fast I could’ve done the Bix this year if I hadn’t just clobbered that half marathon. No matter. This turned out to be my favorite Bix and favorite Bix weekend ever. We even got medals to commemorate the 40th anniversary of this kickass community race. See you July 25, 2015!
– Aidz and Mags